Have you ever heard of these mysterious and miraculous "kegel" exercises? You know, the naughty exercises that make sex better! Oh yes, and you should be kegeling all the time! And you can never kegel too much! Yes, ladies, Kegel, Kegel, Kegel!.... Uuuugh, I hope not, or at least not in that sense. Perhaps because of the industry that I am in, I see all sorts of posts and advertisements surrounding kegels and I get so frustrated with outdated info, trends, and the rhetoric surrounding them.
If you have never heard of kegels before, Great, let's start with a clean slate! If you have heard of or even practiced kegels before, Great, let's improve upon the practice! I'd like to share with you the correct way and reason to do these pelvic floor exercises.
First, let's start with, What is a kegel?
Kegels are a pelvic floor exercise; Its the engagement, contraction and release, of the muscles connected to the pelvis that make up the "pelvic floor."
Second, Why should you practice kegels?
A healthy muscle is one that you feel connected to, can control, and has both strength and stretch. You want to have healthy pelvic floor muscles so that they perform functionally, such as, hold up your organs, proper control of your bladder and bowels, effectively grow and birth a baby, keep the hips and spine aligned, and, yes, even have pleasurable sex.
Third, How to do you do kegel exercises correctly?
If you've never engaged your pelvic floor before or are unsure what muscles I am talking about, start by going to the bathroom. While you are peeing, cut off the stream of urine. Those muscles that you engaged to stop the stream are part of the pelvic floor, and those are the muscles you use when kegeling. (Note: It is unhealthy to frequently cut off the stream of urine while peeing, please only practice this a couple times as you discover the pelvic floor muscles.)
When you feel as though you can connect to your pelvic floor muscles and possibly even engage them, then find a safe comfortable space to practice your kegel exercises.
Set yourself up in child's pose (the posture the lady is in pictured at the top of the blog). Relax all the muscles of your body, unclench your jaw.
The center of your pelvic floor is right around the perineum (the space between the anus and vagina). Feel as though you pull that area up-and-in and then release. Do this a few times just to create a connection to the muscles.
Notice, if you are clenching your butt, legs, belly, or anus. Release all the muscles and try to isolate the muscles of your pelvic floor.
Notice, if you are engaging just the front side of the pelvic floor; engaging just the muscles that cut off the stream of urine. Those muscles are part of the pelvic floor, but try to engage from the center where the perineum is instead. This will allow for more balance in the muscles.
Notice, if you are becoming anxious or emotional. That's ok, give yourself break to center yourself. This is an intimate exercise and engaging these muscles can bring up emotional challenges for many women.
Try the contraction and release again with those points in mind. Imagine a jellyfish in the ocean, draw your pelvic floor muscles up-and-in and then release, just like the jellyfish. Continue to pulse.
Now, slow the exercise down a little bit and connect the movement with your breath. As you inhale feel a release. As you exhale feel a contraction.
Notice, if the abdominal muscles respond to your breath as well. That's ok, but keep your focus on the pelvic floor and really isolate those muscles.
Notice, if you're ready to give up these exercises. That's ok, give yourself time and space to explore these exercises when it feels right. There's no need to get it right or perfect the first, tenth, or hundredth time around. That's why we call it practice.
Overall, your kegel practice should only last a few minutes.
The release is just as important as the contract to generate a balanced practice.
Create a routine around your kegel practice.
Lastly, When should you be kegeling?
This is a tough question to answer because truly it depends... It depends on your particular pelvic floor, whether it is hypertensive, hypotensive, a combo of both, or balanced. You can start pelvic floor exercises at any point in your lifetime. The goal is to create connection with and have a healthy functional pelvic floor. Yes, you can kegel too much and No, its not healthy just to ignore the muscles completely.
To put it in perspective, think about your bicep muscle. If you were to continuously and only bicep curl all the time, your bicep would get stronger, but it would also get tight and you'd walk around with your elbow bent unable to fully straighten your arm. And conversely, if you were to continuously and only stretch and neglect your bicep all the time, your bicep would be flexible, but it would not be strong enough to bend the elbow or help you open a jar of salsa.
Therefore, I suggest exploring your connection to the pelvic floor to get to know your muscles a little better. Notice if the contraction is easier for you than the release, or vice versa. Notice if doing the exercises in a different position are easier or harder to do. Notice if one side or area of your pelvic floor is harder to engage than a different area. If you think you have too much tension, aren't able to engage the muscles, have imbalances, experience pelvic floor dysfunction, or are just plain curious to know more, then go to see a Pelvic Health Physical Therapist. Yes, that's a thing, and a Pelvic Health specialist will be able to assess, diagnosis, and treat your pelvic floor muscles so that they are healthy and functional.